Councils will be required by law to allow the press and public to film and digitally report their meetings.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles signed a Parliamentary order today (Wednesday) giving people new rights to cover council meetings.
It means that members of the public and press will be able to use social networking sites like Twitter to report live from council chambers. They will also be able to film proceedings.
The new rules apply to all public meetings, including town and parish councils and fire and rescue authorities.
Rutland County Council, Lincolnshire County Council and South Kesteven District Council already allow tweeting and filming at meetings. Uppingham Town Council agreed to allow tweeting on the condition that “the public should not disrupt proceedings by their action and should use the facility with discretion” in January.
Stamford Town Council was named by Mr Pickles in a list of councils opposing an independent press because it did not allow tweeting.
The new law builds on Margaret Thatcher’s successful Private Members’ Bill from 1960 which allowed for the written reporting of council meetings by the press.
Mr Pickles said: “Half a century ago, Margaret Thatcher championed a new law to allow the press to make written reports of council meetings. We have updated her analogue law for a digital age.
“Local democracy needs local journalists and bloggers to report and scrutinise the work of their council, and increasingly, people read their news via digital media. The new ‘right to report’ goes hand in hand with our work to stop unfair state competition from municipal newspapers – together defending the independent free press.
“There is now no excuse for any council not to allow these new rights. Parliament has changed the law, to allow a robust and healthy local democracy. This will change the way people see local government, and allow them to view close up the good work that councillors do.”